Can You Answer These Sustainability Questions as a non-CSR Manager?
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set by the United Nations to provide a framework that can lead individuals and companies towards the achievement of a more sustainable future. Everyone has the same responsibility to implement the SDGs, but businesses definitely have more weight than the other parties in the play.
As companies have a major impact both on the environment and on communities, they must understand in which ways they can operate more sustainably. SDGs can provide a tremendous value for organizations, as together they offer an actionable guide to prepare for the 2030 agenda.
It’s now up to businesses to shape the near future by setting sustainability standards and encourage their community to follow them. However, it’s sometimes tricky to navigate among the many sustainability measures that can be undertaken, as this is still considered as a new discipline that can be applied at a company level.
Therefore, there is a need of guidance for managers that don’t have a clear view of how SDGs can create economic growth for their organization. By suggesting metrics of assessment and providing new ideas, this article lists 7 questions that can help leaders understand how their CSR programme is performing, as well as which other approaches could be explored.
- Are You Aware of the Business Potential Associated with the SDGs?
- Which SDGs Are Relevant to Your Field of Work?
- How Do You Measure the Sustainability Improvements in Your Company?
- How Sustainable Is Your Company Culture and How Invested Are Your Employees?
- Have You Thought About Circular Business Opportunities?
- Where Do We Stand Compared to Our Competitors?
- Are You Communicating Your Sustainable Practices to Your Consumers?
1. Are You Aware of the Business Potential Associated with the SDGs?
First, the fundamental question. As a manager, you should have a discrete understanding of the benefits that SDGs bring to your business. If not, have a look at how the SDGs can increase your profit in this 2030 Builders free e-book.
In fact, an attentive analysis of your business’s CSR strategy can help you understand which components of your value chain are dissipating an excessive amount of resources. This enlights any hidden operational costs, as well as potential efficiency gains that could be achieved.
A business strategy that takes the SDGs into account also allows you to expand your brand’s customer base. Nowadays, selling green products on the market is a must-do for any company that wants to retain the interest of more conscious and informed buyers. Target a larger audience and explore a niche with an immense potential by creating products with a purpose.
Finally, implement the SDG#17 Partnerships for the Goals to expand your network by evaluating partnership opportunities and collaborations with organizations that share your same social and environmental purposes. Consider this strategic move if you want to add up on your core capabilities, or to even complement your strengths with an ad-hoc partner to reach new heights.
2. Which SDGs Are Relevant to Your Field of Work?
The 17 Development Goals are meant to create a guiding framework for leaders to operate in a more sustainable way, but it may be confusing to understand which SDGs specifically relate to your business and which ones could be better implemented.
Starting from an analysis of your current business operations, identify which – if any – of the development goals your company is implementing. You may identify the SDGs in only a handful of activities, so do not panic if you can’t connect specific goals relate to your core business: look at the secondary activities as well.
It’s sometimes hard to connect sustainable initiatives with specific SDGs. As a matter of fact, your organization may engage in the implementation of multiple goals at the same time, so it may be arduous to identify which goal is the most pertinent with the initiative.
However, deciding which SDG is the most relevant to your plan can help you maintain a clear direction, as well as to highlight other potential sustainable opportunities. Based on your priorities, take further look at the SDGs as powerful business opportunities and assess which other goals could be implemented and how.
3. How Do You Measure the Sustainability Improvements in Your Company?
After having identified which SDGs are relevant for your organization, it’s time to think about setting performance indicators and how to measure them once implemented. The SDGs don’t only represent objectives to follow, but they come together with measurable targets for each of them.
The UN associates the SDGs with a global monitoring indicator (GMI) framework of 169 targets. These metrics can provide you with an effective action plan to actively contribute to the global goals. Although the metrics were initially designed to be used by adhering countries, businesses can also make use of the targets by adapting them to their operations.
Setting reasonable goals for your organization is key to develop performing initiatives that will produce visible results. However, besides setting goals, it’s equally important to measure and report the advancements of the programs on a monthly basis. All in all, how can you go ahead if you don’t know where you started?
Reporting is also useful because it produces shareable results on the progress of company-wide sustainability initiatives. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a set of metrics to support businesses in sustainability reporting. It considers both organizational outputs and the external network of stakeholders, in order to come up with an assessment of the social and environmental impact.
4. How Sustainable Is Your Company Culture and How Invested Are Your Employees?
Your employees may have heard about sustainability and the SDGs, but they are probably not as knowledgeable as you are. It’s therefore crucial for you to get them on board with company-wide sustainability initiatives. A concrete change in internal operations is the optimal starting point to engage in a more sustainable lifestyle on the workplace.
You should start small, with actionable changes that everyone can easily adapt to. For instance, reduce consumption of water and electricity by providing your colleagues with actionable guidelines such as putting “turn off” reminders close to sinks and light switches. Although it would seem like an obvious solution, this is an effective and practical solution that is still overlooked by many.
If you want to take a step forward, make agreements with the office canteen or the catering company to establish a “food saving” program. It is common in many workplaces that employees can take home whatever food is left from lunch, thus minimizing food waste.
Be sure to hire the right catering company: choose food providers that align with your objectives and that are eager to change the ways they operate into more sustainable ones. Keep in mind that, if you are not happy with your current providers of food and snacks, re-evaluating suppliers is always on the agenda.
Lastly, include your employees in initiatives that can improve their well-being, such as weekly exercise or meditation sessions at the office, which are experiences that can also foster cohesiveness and integration within teams.
5. Have You Thought About Circular Business Opportunities?
Circular economy is a sustainable business model aimed at making the most out of resources, so that waste is minimized. This approach offers endless possibilities for companies to not only optimize their inputs, but also to make profit on their waste or even on their by-products.
In recent years, many have seized the opportunity to work with materials that would otherwise be discarded. For instance, we have seen the rise of startups making cosmetic treatments out of organic natural scraps, as well as big fashion corporations that upcycle ocean plastics found on the shoreline into clothing.
Are you ready to jump on the bandwagon and close the loop? Get inspired by other successful circular businesses and examine in which ways you can exploit the huge potential of this model. Not only it helps you achieve SDG#12 Responsible Consumption and Production, but it can also allow your company to be marketed with a greener profile.
6. Where Do We Stand Compared to Our Competitors?
It is manifest that, on average, consumers prefer sustainable brands. As buyers become more and more informed about brands and their sustainability initiatives, it is now of utmost importance to look at your competitors and understand where you stand and how you can improve.
Turning into a sustainable brand is hard, especially if your company is already grown away from the start-up level. However, it’s not necessary to change your business purpose: including sustainable initiatives in your action plan can be enough if those initiatives are correctly executed.
Having a look at your competitive marketplace is sometimes beneficial, as it provides your organisation with a good indication of where it stands, while highlighting where your company is falling behind and what it could do to stand out. It can also serve as a wake up call in case your competitors are about to outperform you, so that corrective actions can be taken.
However, this does not mean that whatever the competitors are doing is the most effective way to go. It’s also crucial to understand your customers, as they are the actors that make the final decision of whether to purchase your products or the ones of your competitors.
Reach out for your consumers’ opinion and map their purchasing journey. This is done by figuring out which are their scale of priorities in buying decisions, and by discovering where sustainability constitutes a critical determining factor. This process will suggest you how to get ahead of the competition.
7. Are You Communicating Your Sustainable Practices to Your Consumers?
Did you know that your sustainable initiatives can become an essential part of your marketing strategy? Communicating sustainable practices lets you create a viral impact, as well as gaining new customers. As much as 73% of millennials are willing to pay a premium for green and sustainable products.
Nowadays, public perception is key, especially if you work in a B2C context. Building on sustainable marketing initiatives can contribute to the creation of a more responsible and eco-friendly brand image. And the new generations will not buy products from companies that don’t demonstrate a concrete respect for the community and the environment.
Having understood the importance of communicating a green strategy, it’s time to discover which channels are the best fit to spread the word. Create relevant and compelling content that can easily portray your goals and results, and then draft a communication plan throughout the main social media.
Last but not least, create a detailed official CSR report that outlines all the features of your initiatives and publish it on your website. This is where your customers will go to find out if you have any sustainable policies in place, so make sure the document is clearly accessible and frequently updated.
Do you want to get more actionable tips on how you can successfully grow your business with a well-built CSR strategy? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to experience how your employees can directly contribute to your CSR and sustainability strategy.